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Happily Ever After

Holy buckets. This is actually happening!!

On a flight home from Portland a little over a year ago, I was in seat 1B and the sweet flight attendant in the jump seat awkwardly nearly touching knees with me, struck up a conversation. The usual, Where do you live? How was your trip? niceties were exchanged. She commented how lucky I was to call San Luis Obispo County, home. Of course I agreed but countered and said she was pretty lucky, too, because she gets to see the world. I shared with her my love of travel and told her that if I was younger and had it all to do over again, I’d be a Flight Attendant. She responded, “Honey, I’m 50 years old. I started this job when I was 47. I’m a single mother, managed to get my two kids safely into college while working two jobs. Now it’s my time!”

That conversation and that moment are permanently etched into my mind.

Last year was definitely a tough year and one of transition. I learned, once again that the status quo can change in an instant and to take nothing for granted. I learned that “home” is where my heart is, no matter what my address is. And most valuably, the check-list of life we all have, that is surely the key to happiness, should only be used as a guide. Often, the more boxes you check, the more illusive happiness can seem.

Rather than looking at happiness as a destination, I began to look at happiness as a state of being that runs parallel to life and our every day activities. I learned to be happy, no matter the circumstances, just as a cancer patient can find happiness on their worst of days. We can all agree that cancer and happy usually aren’t associated, yet, some of the most inspiring people we find are facing extreme adversity.

After a particularly enlightening work meeting last fall, I headed East for Reno to hopefully check a box called, “Tall, Dark and Handsome.” The 12 hours total drive time offered fantastic reflection about what I was doing and where life was going. As excited as I was about the newest Mr. Wonderful, I was equally pleased to be traveling again. For me, few things make me feel happier than to check out new places, and enjoy the company of new found friends. I recalled the last trip I had taken was to Portland for work .. Oh yes. That sweet Flight Attendant. My mind wandered with the miles and I wondered about what that life would really be like. About a month later, I Googled, Flight Attendant Position Available. Yahtzee!! Three companies were hiring. 9 months later, here I am!!

I’ll be working for one of the Big Three who has a very strict policy about Social Media and what we, as trainees and employees can share. I’m completely okay with that. If I choose to look at this time in my life as one of renascence, I’ll take the opportunity to spend more time with my electronics turned off and more time talking to the people in my immediate proximity. This doesn’t mean an end to blogging and social media. Simply, taking the opportunity to slow down and be present in the moment. I’m not sure if it was my normally hyper and anxious disposition or the 7+ years of taking over 100 calls per work day (not to mention text messages and emails) that had me adjusted to the constantly connected life. Here nor there, my future will be in the here and now.

I’ve gladly answered 1000 questions since this new chapter was revealed. The only questions that surprised me a bit were those about my happiness. Specifically, if this job would finally make me happy. I guess I can answer that a few different ways. 1. It is not this job’s duty to make me happy. 2. I don’t think I’m an unhappy person. 3. Happiness, to me, is a choice and one I choose every day.

So with warm and happy thoughts of an incredibly supportive base of friends and family, wheels are officially up on this journey. I will continue my life of not wasting moments, seizing opportunities and enjoying this crazy ride. If you find me radio silent occasionally over the next few months, I hope it only adds to the intrigue and fun. Next time I’m close by, ask me a thousand more questions and I will answer every one of them. Happily.

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I know you. I’ve known you since you were a sweet baby. Tonight, my family gathered over your flesh. You see.. much about my family actually revolves around you.

Beautiful bone-in ribeye with outstanding marbling

Beautiful bone-in ribeye with outstanding marbling

In the fall, we wait with great anticipation for your birth. We feed you through the winter and take care of you if you fall ill. We make sure your mama takes care of you as she should and if she doesn’t, we take you in – into our homes. We will wake at any hour of the night to check the fire and make sure you’re warm, not hungry and comfortable. If you need, we’ll give you a bottle, but what we really want is for you to be safe and happy with your mama. We feed your mama and her sisters – they should all be healthy, happy and ready for more babies before spring! In spring time, it is my dad’s and my brother’s hands that prepare you for the rest of your life. It is my hands that give you the immunizations that protect you from terrible disease which very well could cost you your life. It is my sister and her husband’s hands which make you safe to prepare you for the things you need to move forward in life. It is my mother’s and my brothers’ hands who feed you, every day. And the longer it doesn’t rain, the longer we feed you and the shorter we can watch over you. Early in the summer, our family will together make the decision to renew our ranch’s cycle. We will keep some new mamas, we will send some of you on to realize your full purpose on this earth.
Are we a factory? I guess if you think of a factory as a machine that puts out a product for consumption, then maybe we are a factory. I wholeheartedly believe that we are a family who uses the resources that generations past have entrusted to us. A family who choses a life and lifestyle that contributes to the food system and the greater good of America and American Agriculture.
I fully realize just how fortunate I am to look at the BBQ with a glass of Paso Robles wine in hand, standing next to my dad and know exactly where that bone in rib eye came from. And I know how far you went in your 24 months and know where the grain came from that you were finished on and know exactly who harvested you. And most importantly the ethical and moral manner you were harvested in. I know and understand the packing house where you hung for 21+ days and I know the road you came back to the ranch. Same road you lived on your whole life. Same road that my great great grandfather decided to call home in 1874 and the very same road all us O’Donovans and Ryans have called home. We prepared you for our nourishment over a fire born of wood that was harvested from the same ranch, overlooking the same road. My sister and her husband came from 300 yards away and my brother and his wife and my niece came from 8 miles away, back through the town that has been here since 1886, that we all attended school in.
I could sit on this porch and talk to my family forever. I will never forget these moments.

I could sit on this porch and talk to my family forever. I will never forget these moments.

You see .. Part of your purpose was to keep us together. Part of your purpose is to be the tie that binds. As some of us sit on the brink of change, and others settle into the change that has always come, and the rest of us comfortably honor the existence that has perpetuated on this ranch now for 140 years, we honor you. We pray over you. We thank you for your sacrifice. You allowed me to spend an hour with my dad in front of that fire having a conversation that I will never forget. You allowed me to spend two hours around a dinner table that has absorbed countless words and will continue to harbor an empty seat for anyone who wants to come and talk, or come and listen.

You, my friend, have sacrificed more than I can thank you for. Just as God sacrificed His Son. You are an honorable being and tonight, I honor you. Death with purpose gives meaning to life. Tonight and every hour of my life, I honor you.
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Recognizing Sacrifice

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